Employer MBA sponsorship may be full or partial. It may come before or during your studies and it will certainly reduce the burden on your own budget. However, this kind of support has advantages and disadvantages.

The 2014 Prospective Students Survey conducted by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) reports that only 14% of MBA prospects plan to use employer sponsorship to support their studies. This is considerably less than the 42% who plan to invest personal funding in their studies. 18% of this survey's respondents declare that they will apply for a loan and the same number share that they will compete for scholarships and grants. So, employer sponsorship seems to be less popular among MBA prospects and there are several reasons for this.

Types of MBA supported

Firstly, employers will rarely support studies in a full-time MBA programme, especially if it is a two-year one. Employer support is much more likely for part-time MBA formats such as the Executive MBA, part-time MBA, modular MBA and distance MBA programmes. In this way the supported employee can keep working for the company and furthermore will be expected to start contributing their newly acquired knowledge, skills and connections to their job immediately.

MBA sponsorship is binding

The second reason which affects the number of people who consider employer support is that this kind of financing is binding for the employee. It usually obliges the employee to continue working for the company for a certain number of years after MBA graduation and/or pay back part of the investment the company made in the studies. Although in some cases this seems actually like a good deal because you will have a stable job for several years ahead, many MBA-bound professionals prefer to enjoy freedom upon MBA graduation, as many new prospects usually open up during the course of an MBA programme.

Who is eligible for employer support

Companies invest in the development of their key managers and employees who demonstrate talent and the potential to take over more responsibilities and to contribute to the business development of the company. You should show a strong potential for business leadership and management responsibilities in order to be eligible for employer support. Some companies have special HR programmes for identifying key employees, in order to take steps to develop their potential and keep them in the company.

How to apply for employer sponsorship

Many big international companies have a corporate policy on developing their key talented managers by helping them, or even requiring them, to gain an MBA degree. If you work for such a company, then you should check out the eligibility requirements, internal application/nomination process, deadlines and any preference of business schools which your company may have. It may take several years before you become eligible for sponsorship from your employer, so conduct your research well in advance.

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A good starting point is to contact the Human Resources or another relevant department depending on the structure of the company. Then you should either apply yourself or be nominated by your supervisor or the HR department depending on the procedures. The process of reviewing applications may take quite a while, as in some cases the final validation for employer sponsorships will be done by the Board and this governing body meets only a few times a year. If the company you work for has no policies for supporting key employees in their MBA studies, then you should approach the HR department, your supervisor or the CEO. Even at this early stage you should prepare well for the discussion.

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You should have strong arguments about how the company will benefit from supporting your MBA studies, as well as evidence of your key role in the company at the present time and your potential for considerable contribution to the company’s business development.

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Employer support has its pros and cons, but in case it not available to you, just make the best of the all the other options. Learn how Vassia, MBA’13, won a financial aid package directly from her business school which fully covered the cost of her two-year full-time MBA in the US. Watch video interview here.

Learn more about the different sources of funding for your MBA studies in the other articles of the Debate of the Month: